Canada’s Greener Homes program is ending. Thousands of layoffs could follow

As the federal government’s popular Canada Greener Homes grant program comes to a close, the energy audit industry could crumble with businesses across the country warning of mass layoffs in the months ahead.

The federal government has signalled the end of the program, which provides up to $5,000 toward energy efficiency upgrades such as insulation, windows and heat pumps. New applications are expected to close by the end of March, but an official timeline is unknown.

In the meantime, business is temporarily booming for companies across the country who conduct the required home energy audits, as homeowners try to secure the grant funding before it dries up. 

The surge in business is why Stephen Farrell cancelled all vacations for his staff at VerdaTech Energy Management. Currently, the company completes about 600 assessments a month in Alberta and British Columbia, although he predicts that will plunge to one or two per month once the federal program ends. The company also operates in Ontario.

“We’ve just increased the number of energy advisers across Canada dramatically. Millions and millions and millions of dollars was spent training new energy advisors,” he said. “I would suggest we can lose about 70 per cent of them. They’ll go out of the industry.”

“There’s going to be a massive fallout,” he added.

A red fan is shown inside of a door at the entrance of a house.
A blower door system is one of several pieces of equipment that energy assessors use to measure the airtightness, pressure, and flow of a home. Industry officials fear the end of the Canada Greener Homes program will be bad for business. (Louise Moquin/Radio-Canada)

His advice to customers is to register for the program and have the initial assessment completed. Still, it’s difficult to provide advice to clients or his own staff, since Farrell said there is no clear timeline from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the department which administers the program.

“We have asked and we continue to ask for clarity,” Farrell said. “Please communicate with service organizations clearly in writing what is going on?”

Adding to the confusion is a temporary halt to new applications in Ontario effective Jan. 19 in order to “reconcile all current applicant files.”

Popular program

The grant program was supposed to last seven years, but it has proven so popular that the money is being used up at a faster rate than expected.

The federal grant helped knock $5,000 off the price of installing rooftop solar panels on Nicolas Gautier’s Calgary home. He’s also taking advantage of a related federal program providing an interest-free loan.

“It was sort of a no-brainer for us,” said Gautier of the savings.

Insulation is shown inside the attic of a home.
Eligible upgrades for the Canada Greener Homes grant include attic, wall and basement insulation. (Louise Moquin/Radio-Canada)

The Greener Homes program came into effect on Dec. 1, 2020, with an end date of March 31, 2027, although it always came with a caveat that applications would be accepted until the money is allocated.

In total, the program is worth $2.6 billion…

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